Los Angeles City Council District 9, presently repped by Curren Price, who at this point is essentially three sealed federal indictments in a trench coat, is notoriously bad about complying with the California Public Records Act. I haven’t written about it here, but have tweeted about it regularly. See here and here, e.g., for stories about his staffie Angelina Dumarot’s absolutely shameless obstruction of my access to records.
Her usual method is to print out requested emails on paper immediately on receipt of the request, wait out the 10 days before sending an unusual circumstances extension notice, and then ignore the request for between 2 months and 2 years. When her calendar reminds her to do so she’ll either require requesters to inspect her paper copies of emails in person or else scan the printed pages to non-searchable PDFs, spool them up into fixed-page-length PDFs in random order with individual emails broken across different files.
The fact that she insists on turning emails into printed paper rather than producing native email files as the law requires is in itself a different and still huge problem. And then at some point in early 2020 she stopped responding to my requests entirely. Many of them are more than two years old at this point. Dumarot’s antics, without doubt entirely at the behest of her inexplicably as-yet-unindicted boss Curren Price, have obstructed access not only to emails, but to usable versions of Price’s appointment calendars and other essential information.
Which is why, if you’re curious, our friends at the Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition, represented by the absolutely essential Tasha Hill and Maya Hylton Garza, filed a writ petition the other day seeking to compel CD9’s compliance with the CPRA both with respect to file formats and to nonproduction. Get your conformed copy here and stay tuned for news!
Continue reading The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition Just Filed Another CPRA Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles — This Time Over CD9’s Refusal To Produce Records Timely And Their Insistence On Printing Emails To Paper And Then Scanning Them Badly To Non-Searchable PDFs And Other Such Reprehensible Antics — Executed By Curren Price Hatchetman Angelina Valencia Dumarot — But No Doubt Planned By Price Himself
It’s been a big few days around here! The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition filed two CPRA suits against the City of Los Angeles and one against LAHSA and I personally filed one against the City of Los Angeles. Both LASC and I are repped by the formidable Gina Hong of the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action.
The case against CD15 is based on a request I made in June 2019, for which, two years later, I’ve only received minimal responsives with no unexpired deadline for production forthcoming. Buscaino staffer Amy Gebert’s shameless violations of the CPRA led me to file two distinct complaints against her with the LA Ethics Commission, one in August 2020 and the other in February 2021.
This is an extremely exciting petition. It’s the first time I’ve used a cause of action based on California Code of Civil Procedure §526a, which allows taxpayers to file suit against government agencies for wasting tax money. The idea is that by insisting on producing emails by printing them in color on paper and then scanning the paper to PDFs CD15 is wasting staff time on unnecessary processes and public money on completely unnecessary color printing.
Continue reading Last Week The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition And Friends Filed Four CPRA Petitions — Three Against The City Of Los Angeles And One Against LAHSA — The LA City Suits Are Versus CD4 — And CD15 — And The Information Tech Agency — The CD15 One Includes A Taxpayer Suit Based On California Code of Civil Procedure 526a — Which Lets Us Allege That Buscaino Is Wasting Public Money By Using It To Violate The CPRA — And May Lead To Lasting Policy Changes Rather Than A Mere Production Of Records
The City of Los Angeles famously and frequently violates the California Public Records Act. One of the most difficult-to-counter ways in which they do this is to deny that they have responsive records at all. It’s pernicious because the only recourse for violations is to file a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court but the statute only authorizes petitions when:
it is made to appear by verified petition … that certain public records are being improperly withheld from a member of the public.
That is, if the City says there are no records and there’s no evidence to the contrary it’s likely a judge will believe the City’s claim and deny the petition. Which means it’s often useful to have evidence that responsive records exist even before requesting them. It’s also really important to duplicate requests to as many City departments as may have copies, since they all have different search methods.
Fairly regularly one City department will say that there are no responsive records while another one will produce proof that the first was lying. For a recent and spectacular example of this phenomenon take a look at this stunningly good Twitter thread from @LANCWatch.
Sometimes even the same department will produce proof that they themselves are lying, an example of which is the subject of today’s post! On June 19, 2021 I asked LA Sanitation for some information about ride-alongs on their CARE/CARE+ homeless encampment sweeps:
Continue reading LA City Sanitation Blatantly Lied In A Response To A CPRA Request For Information About Ride-Alongs With CARE/CARE+ Encampment Sweep Teams — They Said They Didn’t Do Ride-Alongs — But I Already Knew — And Could Prove — Using Evidence Produced By LA San In Response To Another Request — That They Did Before I Made The Request — This Kind Of Dishonest Nonsense Completely Derails Requests From People Who Don’t Know That They Lie About CPRA Requests All The Time — And Is The Zillionth Reason We So Badly Need A Municipal Sunshine Law In The City Charter
The Los Angeles Police Department routinely violates the civil rights of Angelenos. They kill, beat, and maim, of course, but also conduct countless racist pretextual stops of drivers and bicyclists. They’re allowed to do this by the LA City Council, and without good information about what they’re up to it’s not easy for Angelenos to control them.
But they also routinely violate the California Public Records Act. The details range from egregiously obvious to subtly technical but in every case the goal, and for the most part the actual result, is to keep public records out of the hands of the public. They have been sued repeatedly and successfully for this over the last five years. To my knowledge they’ve never prevailed in a public records case.
LAPD’s violations are expensive. Since 2016 the City of Los Angeles has paid out at least $1,377,224 to settle CPRA suits against the police department only. Given the number of pending cases this figure is likely to top $1.5M by the end of 2021. The fact that settlement payments come from the City’s general fund clearly facilitates LAPD’s strategy of denying access to records until a suit is filed.
One of the most common reasons LAPD gives for denying the public access to records is that to produce them would be “burdensome.” There’s no such exemption in the CPRA, but courts have found, in some cases, that a public agency’s use of its resources, including employee salaries, to fill a request serves the public interest less than the production of the records would do.
Continue reading Los Angeles Has Paid Almost $1.5M Settling Recent Public Records Suits Against LAPD — But LAPD Continues To Violate The Law With Impunity — Newly Obtained Reports Show That They’ve Radically Decreased Staff In The CPRA Unit — Even As They Deny Requests Which They Claim Would Use Too Much Staff Time To Fill — They Pad Their Request Completion Stats By Prioritizing Innocuous Automated Reports Rather Than Substantial Material — And They Handle Requests From Mainstream Media Outlets More Promptly Than Others
The City of Los Angeles is generally very, very, very bad at complying with the California Public Records Act. There are no consequences that matter to them for violating it so they violate it wantonly. Only lawsuits will get them to comply, and only in that specific instance. So we were glad to hear that our friends at the Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition filed yet another petition against the City of Los Angeles to enforce compliance.
The issue is a bunch of requests for emails from CD1. For a couple years Gil Cedillo’s office, mostly in the person of long-time crony Mel Ilomin, was incredibly compliant with the CPRA, just super-helpful. But then, on a number distinct occasions, we here at the blog exposed Cedillo’s machinations to the light of public scrutiny, which may have contributed to Ilomin’s sudden refusal, beginning in 2019, to comply with the law.
In any case, for whatever reason, he stopped complying, and of course a suit is our only recourse. This, by the way, is the second time that Cedillo’s office has induced a CPRA suit via idiotic noncompliance. So take a look at the petition, stay tuned for details, and read on for a short list of dirt we’ve gotten on Cedillo via the CPRA!
Continue reading Last Week The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition Filed Yet Another Public Records Suit Vs The City Of Los Angeles — This One Relating To Emails About Gentrification And Real Estate In CD1 — But Gil Sadill Is Not Worse Than His Fourteen Unindicted Co-Conspirators — Who Also Won’t Follow The Freaking Law — So While These Lawsuits Are Effective In A Limited Scope The Overall Problem — That The City Of Los Angeles Repeatedly And Intentionally Violates The Public Records Act — Can’t Be Solved This Way — Because Neither The City Nor Its Staffers Suffer Consequences For Their Violations
Ask the LA City Bureau of Sanitation, popularly known as “LA San,” for public records and you’ll almost certainly be subjected to obstructions, delays, lies, and so on. And since LA San signed up for NextRequest, a despicable and useless public records platform, you’ll be forced to communicate with anonymous City staffers through a clunky script-heavy website that barely works on a computer and just forget about your phone all together.
Unless, of course, you happen to work for NBC Universal or the LA Times. Elena Stern, Senior Public Information Director with the Department of Public Works, which includes LA San, is happy to handle your CPRA requests informally via email. This is no accident, by the way. Stern clearly understands the utter uselessness of NextRequest, and the pain it causes. Here’s the story.
Continue reading Despicable Streets Of Shame Reporter Joel Grover Emailed LA Sanitation Boss Flackie Elena Stern Asking For A Bunch Of Info — Stern’s Subordinates Asked Her Why Didn’t She Make Him Use NextRequest — Stern Explained That “we have to decide whether or not it’s worth it to antagonize a reporter like Grover” — She Said: “because it’s him, I’m not making him go through CPRA” — Then She Sent Him The Goodies Via Return Email — So I Asked Her For The Same Stuff Just Yesterday — Via Email — And Her Response Was Quite Different — She Refused Me Stating That “all CPRAs are to be submitted through the NextRequest portal” — Because She — Or Her Masters In The Department Of Public Works — Like Joel Grover’s Reporting And They Don’t Like Mine — Which Is Egregious — And Illegal — And Immoral — And Entirely Normal For The City Of Los Angeles
This post is about a confidential email conversation between Deputy City Attorneys Mike Dundas and Strefan Fauble and CD13 staffer Dan Halden about a CPRA request of mine. If you’d like to read the email without reading my nonsensical rantings about it you can find it here on Archive.Org
If you spend any time at all asking the City of Los Angeles for copies of public records you’ll have realized that compliance with the Public Records Act is not a high priority of theirs. They violate it constantly, in small ways and large, intentionally and out of sheer careless indifference. They violate it because they can afford to pay out any number of settlements and most people won’t sue them. They violate it even though compliance with the CPRA is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of California.
And now, although I’ve long suspected it to be true, I have proof that the City Attorney’s office actually advises them to decide whether to violate it based on whether or not they think the requester will sue them which, as Strefan Fauble so succinctly puts it in a top-secret confidential April 2019 email conversation, “would involve a lot more work.”
But it takes resources to sue them, so effectively this policy favors rich requesters and corporate requesters, even though the Constitution guarantees access to every person, which clearly means equal access. It’s surely no coincidence that rich people and corporations are much, much less likely to be critical of the City. This story begins with a request I sent to Dan Halden on March 12, 2019. I asked Halden for:
Continue reading Confidential Attorney Client Conversation Between Deputy City Attorneys Mike Dundas and Strefan Fauble And CD13 Staffer Dan Halden Reveal That The City Denies Requests As Burdensome Even Though They Know A Judge Wouldn’t Buy Such An Exemption Claim — That They Consider Whether A Requester Will Actually Sue Them When Deciding Whether Or Not To Deny As Burdensome — Which Is Intrinsically A Violation Of The CPRA — And That Mike Dundas Understands The CPRA Far Better Than Strefan Fauble
This post is ultimately about an email conversation between Blair Besten and Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs about a public records request that renowned podcaster Carrie Poppy submitted to Besten’s BID in May 2020. It’s a fascinating look behind the scenes as a CPRA request is filled. If you want to skip my nonsense and get straight to the goods, here’s a link to the email itself
, and here are a bunch of emails between Poppy and Briggs
about her request.
Like I said up there in the title, in March 2020 Carrie Poppy sent a request for public records to Blair Besten, the half-pint Norma Desmond of the Historic Core BID, the third weirdest of the minor Downtown BIDs. Poppy’s request included the following sentence: If any of these records are held by the BID in electronic form I will need to inspect them and potentially receive copies in electronic form.”
And because apparently she’s always thinking of me, Besten immediately fired off a desperate email to self-proclaimed Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs which contained a plaintive cri de coeur: “This sounds like an [Kohlhaas]esque request. ‘Electronic Form’ as they are being held – you know? Maybe?” And Briggs, always voluble, rarely sensible, had something to say about Poppy’s request as well.
Writing in all caps like the serial killer he never had the nerve to become Briggs had this clueless comment: I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS UNLESS SHE THINKS WE WOULD CHARGE HER FOR A THUMB DRIVE OR WHATEVER; WE CAN JUST SEND PDF’S OR THE EMAILS THEMSELVES IF THERE ARE ANY, BY EMAIL. WE CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO TRANSMIT WHEN WE KNOW WHAT WE HAVE.”
Continue reading In March 2020 Apparently Carrie Poppy Asked The Historic Core BID For Some Public Records — Leading Batty Little Fusspot Blair Besten To Assume It Was Actually Me — And Therefore To Flip Her Already Fairly Unstable Wig — And Write To Self-Proclaimed Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs — THIS REQUEST SEEMS KOHLHAASESQUE!!!! — Prompting Briggs To Interrogate A Bunch Of Other BIDs While Investigating The Most Pressing Question Of Our Time — Is Carrie Poppy Somehow Associated With Kohlhaas??!?!!?! — His Conclusion? — She Is Not Associated With Me — And Jeffrey Charles Briggs Has Never Known Himself To Be Wrong About Anything — So I Guess We Have To Believe Him! — Not Least Because He Writes In All Caps Like A Serial Killer
On January 12, 2021 Raquel Beltran, newish boss of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, paid a visit to a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. She spoke for a long, long time, about a wide range of topics, one of which was the California Public Records Act. Beltran doesn’t like this law at all, by the way. It’s overwhelming to her.
Her rambling slo-mo rant starts here, but I’m much more interested in this little bit over here. Some random DLANC director asks Beltran why DONE can’t do CPRAs for NCs because they’re overwhelmed and ignorant. Beltran goes on and on about how she wanted to do this but there’s just no money for it. Then we get to the key bit. The director has a followup question!
…in many cases the requester knows more about the process than the neighborhood council does and this could, this could really ensue [sic] a liability issue.
And oh, boy, does Beltran ever bite at this morsel! She’s off and running, folks!
Continue reading Raquel Beltran Of The Department Of Neighborhood Empowerment Told The Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council That “We” Know Of “A Couple People” Who “Do [Public Records Requests] As A Racket — And Then They Collect The Fines” — Beltran Is A Liar — And She Lies Like A Child — With Nothing To Gain — No Chance Of Not Getting Caught — Stupid Pointless Lies — I Suppose She’s An Improvement Though — So Far She Seems Slightly Less Psychopathic Than Grayce Liu — But So Are 999,999,999 Out Of A Billion People — So We Could Probably Do Better — But I Doubt That We Will